Bloodily Drawn Boy

dark stranger dvd 2015THE DARK STRANGER

3.5 Stars  2015/90m

“Leah’s new graphic novel is going to be killer.”

Director/Writer: Chris Trebilcock / Cast: Katie Findlay, Enrico Colantoni, Stephen McHattie, Mark O’Brien, Alex Ozerov, Jennifer Dale, Emma Campbell.

Body Count: 3


Freddy worked through the dreams of his victims, The Creeper could smell their fear, and now we have The Dark Stranger who gets to his chosen quarry… …through art!?

As much a study in mental health and grieving as a horror film (and even less a slasher pic), we follow Leah, who witnessed the deterioration and eventual suicide of her artist mother. Ever since, Leah has suffered from agoraphobia and depression, unable to express herself through her own art and petrified of strangers.

Her doting dad (the ever-adorable Colantoni) has been approached by questionable fellow Randall Toth about putting on an art show featuring her late mother’s work, but he happens to resemble the fiend in the new series of sketches she’s creating, a story which seems to reflect her own sense of being lost in the world.

the dark stranger 2015 katie findlay

As it goes, the more artwork she creates, the more The Dark Stranger crosses over into the real world, using Leah’s blood as a means to control her, and breaking through to kill anybody who stands in the way – including her therapist. Actually, only her therapist.

Naturally, nobody’s going to believe the girl who had the breakdown, so she’s largely up against it on her own, although the arrival of cute TA Mark gives her added strength.

Much of the appeal here comes through great performances by the cast. Findlay, last seen in a rather thankless role in How to Get Away with Murder exudes vulnerable final girl vibes, and who wouldn’t want Keith Mars as their Dad? McHattie, of course, needs no practice playing a creep.

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A significant chunk of the film is portrayed through the awesome artwork of Sean Scoffield, which pivots on creepy visuals that eventually suck Leah in, in a cute echo of the comic book kill from A Nightmare on Elm Street 5.

Shot for a meagre $1.3m, the cash stretches a long old way and much higher budgeted flicks don’t look this good. A viable franchise? Maybe a sequel or two, a night school art class perhaps?

Blurb-of-interest: Stephen McHattie was in Death Valley.

VIP’s of Slasherdom: Jessica

The Bitchy Girl is a common staple of slasher movies, and often they provide some of the best lines in their respective movies (see previous VIP, Wendy from Prom Night).

Thus, watching Sorority Row earlier, I feel it’s only right that Delta Phi president Jessica (Leah Pipes) should be the fifth inductee to the Slasherdom Hall of Whatever™.

jessica leah pipes sorority row

Purpose: Covering her own ass over and above the interests of others around her.

Sass: Largely unmoved by the carnage occurring around her and the resulting deaths, Jessica is entirely responsible for the wit in this movie, lifting it beyond ‘just another slasher remake’ status to Mean Girls with a body count. Listen for the uber-sarcastic delivery of “Oh no, don’t go out there!”

Legacy: In a rare trend-buck, I’d advocate Jessica being one of the survivors of Sorority Row. Why? Because no sooner is she dispatched by the killer, the film enters a slightly problematic final act, with all the self-awareness and acidic wit gone. She was easily the most interesting character and even if she survived only to be arrested and led away in cuffs five minutes later, it would’ve made for a better outcome.

Nevertheless, Jessica – we love you. Here are your greatest hits:

Some films I frankly can’t be bothered to say much about

I’m just tired, okay?

butchered 2003 dvd

BUTCHERED

2 Stars  2003/18/76m

A.k.a. BludgeonThe Hazing

Director: Joe Castro / Writer: Eric Spudic / Cast: Susan Smythe, Elina Madison, Phoebe Dollar, Juliet Bradford, Ben Belack, Christopher Michaels, Adam Crone, Tracy Ray, David Alan Graf.

Body Count: 10


What did they do to the eyes of everyone on that cover?

The sophomoric slasher effort from the production group behind Maniacal. Although again shot on video, Butchered generally has slightly better production values and a better script.

Whereas the earlier film played like a student’s take on Halloween with a million and one references to other slasher pics, this time around Hell Night seems to be up for the Xerox treatment as college students Lynette and Barbara agree to spend the night in an old manor house to pledge their sorority (which only has two sisters anyway). We already know that a maniac hiding behind a creepy Darkness Falls­-like mask lurks in the walls of the house, which is due to be converted into a theme park ghost house, as a luckless derelict and the new owner find out.

The sorority sisters and their horny boyfriends turn up to scare the pair witless and end up as additional prey for the killer, who, according to an inexplicably well-informed pizza boy, is the mute daughter of the last owners. Andrew Garth she is not, but there are some amusing kills, including a machete in the mouth and a repetition of the bashed-in head as seen in Maniacal.

Cheap and cheerful with a definite love for its genre, just in need of a cash injection.

*

the driller killer 1979

THE DRILLER KILLER

2 Stars  1979/18/96m

“It will shatter you!”

Director: Abel Ferrara / Writer: N.G. St. John / Cast: Jimmy Laine, Carolyn Marz, Baybi Day, Harry Schultz, Rhodney Montreal.

Body Count: 13

Laughter Lines: “I’ll tell you what you know about: You know how to bitch, and how to eat, and how to bitch, and how to shit, and how to bitch!”


One of the grand daddies of the ‘Video Nasty’ saga in 80s Britain, this is a grimy study of a highly strung artist (played by director Ferrara under the pseudonym Jimmy Laine) living with his girlfriend and a permanently-wasted bimbo spiralling into insanity, as phone bills, abortion charges, his never-finished painting, and the crappy punk rock band rehearsing downstairs at all hours push him closer to the brink.

Acquiring a Porto-Pak, he takes a power drill to the homeless residents of New York City, boring holes into them to vent his fury at the world. Appearing shortly before the slasher movie outburst of 1980, The Driller Killer doesn’t adhere very closely to the genre rules that would soon make themselves known through popular examples: The main character is the killer, and there is no offbeat motive set deep in the past. Instead, irritations slowly build up until he boils over and runs around town offing eight hobo’s in one night!

The intact version of the film was eventually released on DVD in the UK in 2002 and, aside from maybe two of the drillings, isn’t the blood feast it was painted to be by hysterical moral guardians of the Whitehouse ilk. On the contrary, the scene in which the three roommates indulge in the world’s grossest pizza is far more stomach churning than anything the drill gets up to.

Unfortunately, the flippant scenes of essentially unrelated happenings serve only to annoy and steer the focus away from what could be an interesting character portrait.

*

freak out 2005

FREAK OUT

2.5 Stars  2005/15/99m

“It’s cheap n’ nasty!”

Director/Writer: Christian James / Writer: Dan Palmer / Cast: James Heathcote, Dan Palmer, Yazz Fetto, Nicola Connell, Chilli Gold, James Hicks, James King.

Body Count: 22-ish

Laughter Lines: “I don’t like horror films anymore, they’re for babies.”


A camp, vegetarian psychopath is adopted by horror loving nerd, Merv (Heathcote), and his slacker buddy Onkey (Palmer – who co-wrote). They attempt to turn him into a maniac killer of Jason proportions.

This film successfully skewers many genre clichés and turns them on their head, but is ultimately toppled by its inherent cheapness, which makes it look like a drawn out sketch show clip. The unrelenting satiric Brit humour is hit-and-miss and shares common ground with the fly-on-the-wall like approach that made the likes of The Office and Green Wing successful, albeit on a more juvenile level here.

The best laughs come courtesy of the killer himself, known only as Looney, who is never without his orange jumpsuit, potato sack headdress, hockey mask and carries a spatula as his weapon of choice – his polite observations (in a voice that sounds like Bungle the Bear from Rainbow) and apparent obsession with Larry Hagman supply ongoing chuckles.

Considering the 99 minute run time, the three secular killing sprees are over in seconds with little concern for convincing effects work although there is a high body count and plenty of sloppy gore.

Ultimately, Freak Out parodies the less obvious of slasher movie conventions with fair success, but The Hand of Death Part 25 did the job better. Worth the once over for some cheap laughs – most notably the scene with The Blair Witch Project stage play.

*

NEXT OF KINnext of kin 1982

3 Stars  1982/86m

“Some films take their audience to the brink of terror… This one crosses the border.”

Director/Writer: Tony Williams / Writer: Michael Heath / Cast: Jackie Kerin, John Jarratt, Alex Scott, Gerda Nicolson, Charles McCallum, Bernadette Gibson, Robert Ratti, Debra Lawrance.

Body Count: 8


Spooky goings on abound at the Montclare Retirement Home, a lush estate recently inherited by Linda (Kerin) after her mother passes away: A resident is found at the bottom of the bathtub, and our heroine keeps seeing a mysterious figure hanging about on the grounds, finding her taps have been left on in her sink and her bath, and in an especially eerie moment, someone breathing on a separate house telephone during a call… Is she going mad?

Some of her questions are answered in her late mother’s diaries that fear ‘something evil’ is lurking about the place and the local Doctor is being quite secretive about some of the past events that occurred. Drawing quite heavily from Black Christmas, the slashing in this film doesn’t kick in until the hour mark, instead substituting violence to build a respectable level of tension and define even the most ancillary characters enough to fear for their safety.

Moments familiar from Halloween, The Shining, and Psycho help with the somewhat rushed climax (where the sound of the running down the halls is used to great effect). The finale goes a bit awry although Linda finally kicks-ass, there are still several loose ends that are never made any tighter, but this is one little gem that has somehow remained out of circulation for a while.

Look out for a pre-Mick Taylor John Jarratt.

*

slaughter night sl8 n8 2006

SLAUGHTER NIGHT

2.5 Stars  2006/90m

A.k.a. SL8 N8 (Slacht Nacht)

Directors/Writers: Frank van Geloven & Edwin Visser / Cast: Victoria Koblenko, Kurt Rogiers, Jop Joris, Steve Hooi, Linda van der Steen, Carolina Dijkhuizen, Serge-Henri Valcke, Emiel Sandtke, Lara Toorop.

Body Count: 12


In the mid-1800s, a child murder named Andries Martiens terrorised a region of Holland, decapitating seven children in an attempt to utilise black magic that would help him enter and exit hell. He was caught before he could off his eighth and final victim.

In the present, Kristel and her father are involved in a car accident one night: She survives, he doesn’t. Guilt-ridden, Kristel volunteers to collect some of his belongings from his office in nearby Belgium and takes four college friends with her. She discovers her late dad was penning a book on Martiens and had become fixated with a local mine where the killer had been recruited as a sort-of working suicide bomber, to rid the mines of excess methane by going in with a live flame. Death row inmates who survived this task were pardoned, but not in his case and Martiens was duly executed.

Kristel is advised to ‘take the tour’ of the mine and drags her pals along with her. Spooky occurrences abound and the party are stranded below ground where they unwisely decide to tinker with the Ouija board that Kristel’s father owned. This dumbfounded act unleashes Martiens’ vengeful spirit, which snappily possesses one of the group and uses them to start offing the others, leaping to a new host if the poor schmuck is killed. There’s lots of blah about the occult, uncollected inheritance, treasure, and a few grisly kills sprinkled throughout.

The Netherlands isn’t famous for its horror output. Amsterdamned (which one of the cast members here was in) was passably entertaining, as is SL8 N8, which, in Dutch, translates to the English title and neatly ties in the need to eight victims etc…

A sort of Long Time Dead by way of My Bloody Valentine affair. In Dutch. Okay once.

Blurbs-of-interest: Butchered: Elina Madison was in Curse of the Forty-Niner; Joe Castro directed Maniacal and The Jackhammer MassacreFreak Out: Dan Palmer was in Small Town FolkNext of Kin: John Jarratt played Mick Taylor in the Wolf Creek movies and TV series, and was also in NeedleSlaughter Night: Serge-Henri Valcke was in Amsterdamned.

“Please stop this – it’s wrong!”

maniacal 2003

MANIACAL

1.5 Stars  2003/18/79m

“Gilbert Gill has come home to kill!”

Director: Joe Castro / Writer: Eric Spudic / Cast: Perrine Moore, Lee Webb, Carl Darchuk, Heather Asley, Carol Rosecarver, Brannon Gould, Jon Prutow, David Ortega, Michael Nyman, Deborah Huber.

Body Count: 14

Laughter Lines: “Should we be watching all these slasher movies with my brother on the loose?”


A little extra merit for the sheer passion shown for the genre in this effort, which is about as retarded as its nominal madman, one Gilbert Gill, a ‘slow’ youngster who opens the film by murdering his kindly stepmother and attacking his abusive father and goody-two-shoes sister Janet.

In true Halloween style, a plinky-plonky piano score runs through the credits and we skip forward three years to the day Gilbert is to be allowed home for a day’s visit with dad and sis. Instead, he murders a few of the orderlies at his low security asylum and returns to town where Janet blows off seeing him for a slumber party with slutty bimbo friends DJ and Brooke.

The outcome can be seen rolling over the horizon for miles, but there are some cutesy references to such obscure slashers as Happy Hell Night, Cheerleader Camp and even Camp Blood as well as conversations about the irony of the situation.

Nevertheless, the characters are so stupid that they fail to call off their gathering, even upon learning Janet’s brother is back in town and has murdered several people! Meanwhile, dad and a singular law enforcement officer (also DJ’s father) drive all over the place looking for Gilbert while the local kids chant Freddy-style rhymes in the park.

With the obvious love for the slasher opus, Castro abundantly ladles on the gore on with some deaths so ridiculous it defies belief: A fork in the head is one thing, but heads that collapse into rubbery masses at the thrust of a palm, and the longest strangulation in history push the bar from campy extravagance to low-watt idiocy.

Good laugh: Janet’s reasoning with her brother after thirteen murders: “please stop this – it’s wrong.” Same thing should have been mentioned to the producers.

Blurbs-of-interest: Brannon Gould was in Final Stab; Castro also directed Butchered and The Jackhammer Massacre.

I’d rather go blind

see no evil dvd

SEE NO EVIL

2 Stars  2006/18/81m

“Eight teens, one weekend, one serial killer.”

Director: Gregory Dark / Writer: Dan Madigan / Cast: Glenn Jacobs [as Kane], Christina Vidal, Samantha Noble, Luke Pegler, Steven Vidler, Michael J Pagan, Rachael Taylor, Penny McNamee, Craig Horner, Mikael Wilder, Tiffany Lamb, Cecily Polson.

Body Count: 12


See No Evil came out ten years ago! And ten years after Scream! How time flies. How producers learn nothing from the lessons provided by their forebears.

Things begin with two cops turning up at a house and discovering it’s home to hulking psycho Jacob Goodnight, who is holding a girl captive, whose eyes he has plucked out. He axes one of the cops down and cuts the arm off the other before being shot in the head.

GASP! Four years later – not a multiple of five for once! – the surviving one-armed cop is escorting eight wayward teens from their detention centre to the rundown Blackwell Hotel, where they’ll shorten their sentences by helping fix the place up as some sort of community service thing that appears only to be open to telegenic youths. Nobody here is anything short of a catwalk model.

see no evil

Of course, said venue is now the home to Goodnight, who is soon plucking out the eyes of the horny teens left, right and centre as he believes the eyes are the windows of the soul or some such nonsense. Some squishy eye-gougings and a couple of other quasi-nasty death sequences – including a nasty girl getting her cellular rammed down her throat until she chokes on it – do little to distract from the gaping flaws in passion for the project.

The cop is killed summarily early on without even facing off with the killer, totally erasing what tension there may have been, and the teens are about the most unsympathetic assholes you could ever wish to attempt to root for. Christina Vidal as good-but-tough girl Christine elicits a bit of gusto as the put-upon heroine, while the others have virtually nothing to work with other than filling their mono-dimensional drug-dealer/shoplifter/fraud role to the brim with profane stereotyping.

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WWE wrestler Kane is a good build for such a killer but the script unwisely chooses to try and create sympathy for him in the form of an obvious plot twist. One memorable scene features an animal rights activist being lowered to safety ends up hanging upside down a few inches from the ground only to be ravaged by the group of stray dogs she earlier befriended.

Notes from my original 2007 viewing end with: “At least there’s no sequel-hungry ending to it!” Oh, how wrong I was.

Blurb-of-interest: Michael J. Pagan was in Chain Letter.

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